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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Associate Degree to Bachelor Degree: Advancement in Your Healthcare Career

April 22, 2021

associate degree to bachelor degree dental hygiene

When planning your education, one of the first questions you may ask yourself is associate degree vs bachelor degree, which is better? While the benefit of many health care and dental fields is that you can get into the working world fast, some careers may benefit from advancing your education after you’ve received initial certification and licensure. 

Advancing your vocational associate degree with a bachelor degree may help your career, especially if you intend to move into teaching or management in addition to the day-to-day duties of a medical or dental role. 

What are Some Benefits of a Bachelor Degree?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) advancing your education may lead to better earnings and other benefits. The BLS reports that in 2019, on average, those with a bachelor degree earned $361 more a week than those with an associate degree. The BLS reported that those with an associate degree had a 2.7% unemployment rate compared to those with a bachelor degree reporting a 2.2% unemployment rate. 

In addition to monetary reasons, having a bachelor degree may help your career in other ways. 

  • Potentially show employers a commitment to your field
  • May open the door to management or teaching positions
  • May lead to increased earnings 

What Fields Can Benefit From a Bachelor Degree?

While many careers can benefit from increased education, there are a number of medical and dental fields where an associate degree vs bachelor degree could make a difference in your career. These are some programs that you can advance your education after joining the workforce. 

Dental Hygiene

A common path to becoming a dental hygienist is to complete an associate degree program and obtain the appropriate state licensure to become a registered dental hygienist. This can open the doors to a fulfilling career. According to the BLS, the national median annual wage for dental hygienists was $76,220 in May 2019. The lowest 10% earned less than $53,130, and the highest 10% earned more than $103,340.

However, some dental hygienists may choose to pursue a Bachelor Degree in Dental Hygiene (BSDH) later in their career. The Bachelor of Science Degree in Dental Hygiene affords excellent opportunities for professional growth and development with education in leadership, education, and research. According to SalaryExpert, the average annual salary for a dental hygiene teacher was $109,440. This is a role that would likely require at least a bachelor degree. 

Health Care Management

A Health Care Management bachelor degree is an option for those who hold associate degrees in health care or related fields who want to move into administration or management. Some roles you may be able to hold after completing this degree include:

  • Administrative Services Managers 
  • Executive Secretaries and Executive Administrative Assistants
  • General and Operations Managers 
  • Health Educators 
  • Medical and Health Services Managers 

This degree may be ideal for those who want to switch their health care career or move into a more supervisory role such as operations manager, health services manager or administrative service manager. 

Respiratory Therapy

There are two levels of respiratory therapy degrees. Respiratory therapists have at least an associate degree. To become a respiratory therapist, you’ll need to complete a respiratory therapy program and then complete a credentialing exam from the National Board for Respiratory Care. There are two options for the NBRC, registered respiratory therapists (RRT) and certified respiratory therapists (CRT). CRT certification is the entry-level certification in the field of respiratory care.

If you’re looking to advance your career, a BSRT provides excellent opportunities for professional growth and development with the necessary education in leadership, education, research, and critical care. A BSRT program is intended for students who are already practicing respiratory therapists. It can take licensed practitioners to new levels, providing skills for those looking for career advancement opportunities in leadership, education, research, and critical care in the field of respiratory care.

Consider a BSRT if you’re ready to take the next step in your respiratory therapy career. 

When Should I Complete My Bachelor Degree?

When you choose to complete your bachelor degree is entirely up to you. You may want to get a feel for your work environment and work with an associate degree for a number of years before advancing your education.

For those who are seeking a bachelor degree because they want to move into management, working in the field for some time may strengthen your applications for management positions in the future, as opposed to going straight to a bachelor degree. 

SJVC’s Degree Completer Options 

San Joaquin Valley College offers a number of options to advance your healthcare education with online bachelor degree programs. These programs are intended for working professionals in respiratory therapy, dental hygiene and health care who are looking for career advancement opportunities. All the programs are available online, which may prove useful for those who want to work while they attend school. 

Learn more about SJVC’s bachelor programs:

Visit for important information on program outcomes.

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